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Scientists to Study Cancer Risks for Those Living Near San Onofre Nuclear Plant

The National Academy of Science will draw a 30-mile radius for scrutiny.

The San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station in San Clemente. Photo courtesy of SONGS.
The San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station in San Clemente. Photo courtesy of SONGS.

The communities surrounding the San Onofre nuclear power plant will be among seven near nuclear facilities scientists will scour for cancer risks.

In May 2012, a preliminary paper outlined how such an investigation could be launched. Last month, Phase 2 of the pilot study, sponsored by the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission and carried out by National Research council, kicked off and just last week, the committee that will oversee the work was named.

According to the National Academy of Science, the pilot study will focus on five activities: 

  • Obtain nuclear facility airborne and waterborne effluent release and meteorology data and digitize these data into a form that is usable for dose estimation
  • Develop a computer model to obtain estimates of absorbed doses to individual organs resulting from effluent releases
  • Obtain cancer incidence and mortality data at the census-tract level to assess the feasibility of the ecologic study
  • Link birth registration and cancer incidence data to identify eligible cases of pediatric cancers and matched controls to assess the feasibility of the record-linkage-based case-control study
  • Develop processes for involving and communicating with the public

“The report from the study will be released in about one year,” said Jennifer Walsh, senior media officer for National Academy of Sciences.

The study will look at communities up to a 30-mile radius surrounding the facilities. The San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station is the only California facility on the list. However, two of the nine committee members are from USC.

A radioactive coolant leak in January 2012 set off a frenzy of action by activists, politicians and regulators in the subsequent 16 months, leading Edison to permanently close the plant because of uncertainty about restarting it.


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